<The Case for Independence

Timeline of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence

June 7, 1776:

  • Richard Henry Lee of Virginia moves “that these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states.”

June 10, 1776:

  • Congress votes to create a committee to draft a declaration of independence.

June 11, 1776:

  • Thomas Jefferson (VA), John Adams (MA), Benjamin Franklin (PA), Roger Sherman (CT), and Robert Livingston (NY) are appointed to the committee to draft a declaration of independence.

June 28, 1776:

  • Draft of the Declaration of Independence is presented to Congress for deliberation. Several alterations are made, including the deletion of the condemnation of the slave trade.

July 2, 1776:

  • Virginia’s motion for independence is approved by twelve out of thirteen states in the Second Continental Congress.

July 4, 1776:

  • Declaration of Independence is approved by twelve states (all but New York).
  • Jefferson writes in his Notes of Proceedings in the Continental Congress of July 4, 1776: “[T]he debates having taken up the greater parts of the 2d. 3d. & 4th. days of July were, in the evening of the last closed. the declaration was reported by the commee., agreed to by the house, and signed by every member present except Mr. Dickinson.”
  • Congress authorizes the first printed version of the Declaration of Independence, known as the Dunlap Broadside. Because the New York delegates had not yet received authorization for independence from their state convention/legislature, the heading reads, “IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. A DECLARATION BY THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN GENERAL CONGRESS ASSEMBLED.” This printed copy is signed only by President John Hancock and Secretary Charles Thomson.

July 9, 1776:

  • New York state convention approves independence.

July 15, 1776:

  • New York delegation in Congress receives permission from their state convention/legislature to approve independence.

July 19, 1776:

  • Congress passes a resolution: “Resolved That the Declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile of “The unanimous declaration of the thirteen united states of America” & that the same when engrossed be signed by every member of Congress.” This handwritten version (known as the Matlack “Parchment” version) includes the heading: IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. It will be signed by 56 delegates in Congress between August 2, 1776 and January, 1777.

August 2 – November ?, 1776:

  • 55 delegates in Congress sign the Matlack “Parchment” copy of the Declaration of Independence.

January 18, 1777:

  • Congress authorizes a printed version of the Declaration of Independence known as the Goddard Broadside. It is the first public version that includes the names of the signers (except for Thomas McKean).

January 1777:

  • Thomas McKean of Delaware (probably) signs the Matlack “Parchment” copy sometime in late January 1777 (his name is not included on the Goddard Broadside). He is the last of the 56 signers to sign.


  • Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissions printer William J. Stone to create an engraving meant to reproduce the Matlack “Parchment” copy as closely as possible.


  • Stone’s engraving is completed and Congress authorizes 200 copies to be printed on parchment.